Radar Recording in ATC Systems – Technical and Professional

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Radar Recording in ATC Systems – Technical and Professional

29TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Acapulco, Mexico, 21-25 April 1990

WP No. 7

Radar Recording in ATC Systems – Technical and Professional


This WP is presented to Conference following a presentation of the subject to the European Regional Meeting in Barcelona October 1989. The matter has been left out of SC VII agenda for 1990, owing to previous commitments. The ultimate goal of this W/P should be a new IFATCA Policy on the matter, dealing with the various aspects. In view of this goal, ATCAI brings to your attention some details and recommendations, that can contribute to the fulfillment of this goal. For the purpose of this W/P the term “Radar Recording” means: Any means (or technique) utilized for recording, playback, presentation or saving, of Radar derived data.


The idea of recording Radar data raises a great dilemma for the Air Traffic Controller; on the one hand, this technique may become, if implemented correctly, a reliable and accurate tool that contributes a great deal in analysing incidents/accidents in Aviation; on the other hand, the employment of such a recording may bring about a conclusive and irreversible evidence against a particular « ATCO » during an investigation of such incident/accident.

The basic IFATCA Policy on Incident/Accident Investigation reflects the Federation’s commitment to enable a professional and accurate investigation procedure and thus contributing directly to the promotion of Air Safety without compromising the ATCO’s basic rights. In this light, the idea of recording Radar is of a positive value. The other (negative) side of the coin is that in many situations, an incident/accident investigation is carried out in a way that leaves one scapegoat guilty – the ATCO, and clearing some other authorities, who are directly or indirectly involved. The “political” implications of such procedures can be very serious; ATCO’s may pay with their promotion, career, or even face some less pleasant consequences such as criminal proceedings and conviction. In view of such prospects, the “Radar Recording” is a dangerous enemy more than an ally!

In some cases, Radar data is recorded from the central processing unit and so the recorded Radar data does not reflect the real situation as existed on a specific display, with all individual selections (weather, filters, range, etc…). An example of such deficiency took place during a NTSB investigation of a midair collision between an Aero Mexico jet and VFR aircraft over Cerritos, California.

Radar Recordings can be used for other purposes such as: gathering data for statistics or user charges; monitoring noise abatement routes; planning of airspace and airports, etc.. The extensive use may adversely affect the performance of the Radar computer for ATC purposes. Such other applications may compromise ATCO’s right for privacy (where such right is defended by the legal system).

Several of the factors described above are included in the “ICAO ATS Planning Manual” (para’s and


In view of the fact that Radar Recording systems become a part of our ATC systems, and having specified few technical, professional and legal aspects, it is of importance and urgency, that a policy is adopted soon. Until such a policy is accepted, it is necessary to work out some basic guidelines and principles.

Whenever a Radar Recording system is employed, data must reflect the precise traffic situation and accurate Radar picture, including all individual selections of the ATCO, at the period in question.

Radar recording systems will not, under any circumstances adversely affect the performance of the Radar or its computer.

Radar Recording and its playback will not be admissible as evidence in a criminal or disciplinary proceedings. Radar Recording will be collected for the sole purpose of promoting safety, and not for other applications.

SC 7 will examine the legal aspects of Radar Recording systems in regard to “breach of privacy articles”, its admissibility as evidence, its secrecy, etc.


It is recommended that this W/P is included in the Work Programme of the Professional and/or Technical S/Committees for 1991.


IFATCA Policy on Incident/Accident Investigation.

ICAO ATS Planning Manual (Paras and

Last Update: September 28, 2020  

December 2, 2019   732   Jean-Francois Lepage    1990    

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